Our Food Shouldn’t be Scary!

Our organic farm is situated is in rural Ireland and it is beautiful in its own way. It’s vibrancy is defined by a myriad of greens, that supports an amazing array of biodiversity.
 
Over the last couple of months have you noticed fields with the now all too familiar bright iridescent yellow of dead vegetation?
 
These fields are yellow because multinational global corporations have forced their tendrils into every aspect of our food system and they do not have the good of you or I or nature at the heart of their operations.
 
These companies make it their business to ensure their profits grow whatever the expense even if the cost is our health and the health of our planet. These yellow fields represent what we are told is best practice by advisers. This is complete rubbish, it is anything but best practice.

Over the last couple of months, I had forgotten how grounding growing food is. On a sunny day walking through the crops, you feel alive.  It’s the vibrancy of nature that recharge us, don’t we have a duty to protect this fragile system of life?
 
Using chemicals to fight nature will never work. In the short term it may give a temporary reprieve from a certain disease or pest, but that pest will come back stronger and more resistant next time. It is in a way a self-perpetuating industry.

I spent a good percentage of my early life studying and working with chemistry and I am thankful for the many benefits modern science makes possible, but synthetic toxic chemicals have no place in our food chain, end of story.
 
The active ingredient in Roundup: glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in human history, nearly 10 billion kg have been used globally.  It is a probable-carcinogen and it now contaminates most non-organic food stuffs. It has caused the dead yellow fields that you may have seen.  The pinnacle of this madness is the application of this chemical to wheat crops right before they are harvested to be ground to make flour. It stays in the flour that is used to make our bread.
 
This invisible cocktail of chemicals in and on conventional food is not good for our health.  It damages our health and does untold damage to nature and biodiversity.

Organic agriculture is much more than saying no to the use of chemicals, it represents a holistic approach to working with nature, to our land and to our food. It means taking care of the soil and the land and it means producing food that tastes fresh and good and crucially is safe and good for our health and for the environment.
 
If we want to have a resilient agricultural landscape for future generations to enjoy, that can withstand the pressures of climate change, then conventional chemical wisdom is not the way.
 
Here’s to fresh organic food.
Kenneth

Look after yourself and your loved ones with organic food. We deliver to every address in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Place your order here.

I Am Angry

Have you ever felt you just do not fit in, you seem to be going against the grain, that you are different?

This thought struck me as I spotted a lonely white cabbage amidst a sea of black kale today.  Not too dissimilar to ourselves I thought, an outsider, not quite in the right place, definitely not fitting in, being different and not really caring what others think.

Of course, the cabbage is just being a cabbage (and probably not thinking a whole lot about anything, it would be wrong of me to suggest otherwise!), but it started me thinking.  

I continued on my crop walk through the fields and I spotted the most amazing intricate display of spider’s webs on one of our kale plants, it seemed that nature was vibrating and shouting look, look at me I’m doing my thing and I am beautiful.

Nature just works. And we have so little idea of how this amazing and complex interwoven web of life works.  All of the natural world links together and works, it just does, and it is truly amazing. Nothing is forced, it all flows, a natural cycle of life and death, always moving always flowing.

Who are we to impose our will and ideas on this beautiful planet without due consideration for all that we share it with? Who are we to extract all that we can by processes that are clearly exploitive, driven by profit? The price is simply too great and is not acceptable.

When will we realise that our habit of constant and increasing consumption are doing irrevocable damage? That our actions are taking away something beautiful, something we all need to be sane in an increasing insane world and only when it is gone will we notice and then sadly it will be too late.

Some days I get so angry, and I am past caring what people think (I guess age brings certain benefits.) But I am angry, and you too have a right to be angry too with the way we as human beings exploit this gentle and strong and beautiful energy that is our Earth.

We cannot compromise in our decisions, and to an extent this is why, even though I am inextricably linked to the world of business, I don’t have to like it.  Practising mindful, conscious, ethical business in a world that is driven by excessive consumption and low prices is difficult, but it is possible, and we do it. 

We have always committed to growing food in the most sustainable manner possible and only sourcing food from the most sustainable suppliers and paying them fairly.  We have always maintained that this is the only way to farm and to do business.

Like the cabbage in the field of kale we are most definitely outsiders, most definitely the underdog. We have a long way to go, we don’t always get it right, we struggle with the challenges but every day we try a little harder and face the challenges and pain head on.

So, for the sake of our planet let’s get a little angry together and make some changes.

Thanks for joining our movement, let us be the channel for your energy.

Kenneth

Let us deliver sustainably grown and sourced fruits, vegetables and groceries to your door if you feel angry too.

There’s No Planet B

Our story this year has many parts to it. The planning and advice, the hard work and organisation of the farm team. The fertility and soil management, the weather and the birds and the bees have all played their part.

Our amazing team of packers, rising each morning sometimes at 4am to get to work at 5am to start packing your orders. Finally, having you our customers willing to supporting our farm and a whole bunch of good luck has got us through to another autumn, my 17th year growing vegetables and our 15th year in business.

Growing vegetables commercially is a tough endeavour and in the stony wet land of the West of Ireland it is particularly challenging.  

The skill and art of growing our food is so important and we need to preserve this knowledge. It is invigorating to see so many small-scale growers embrace sustainable growing.

Yet, many commercial growers are struggling, the work is too hard, the price for their produce is too low, the seasons (due to climate change) are unpredictable, and planning for a market that is ever changing and is sometimes 12 months in the future makes it a precarious undertaking indeed.

As with everything and it is no different in our food system, decisions based purely on financial gain with no regard for our environment are causing devastation to our planet.  

It is much easier for a large supermarket buyer to import cheap produce, grown abroad where labour is inexpensive and where very often the working conditions are poor, and the attention paid to biodiversity is scant than buy more expensive IRISH grown crops.  

I am glad we have you our customers and that we do not need to knock on supermarket doors to sell our produce.

Our harvest is overflowing, now we have parsnips, carrots, swedes, cabbage, leeks, celery, pumpkin, kale and Brussels sprouts, the last of the broccoli and the soon to start purple sprouting broccoli and the first time in 10 years we will have celeriac.

I think you might taste the flavour in your in your boxes, tell us if you do! You will also notice the size of all our crops, the warm September and a soil temperature that is 5C above normal means growth has continued well past when it should have slowed leading to bigger produce. 

The days are closing in now and the weather is wet and it should be cool, but as I write this, we have temperatures here in Galway of 17C and it is 8pm, is this climate change in action right here on our doorstep? 

Our promise is simple, “When you get a box from us you do not need to think about whether you are choosing sustainably, we promise you are”. 

Your support for us means our farm survives and thrives, our people stay in jobs, and we get to mind our little patch of land here in the West of Ireland sustainably.

Thank you

Kenneth

Can We Afford Cheap Food?

During the week I had the privilege of speaking at a food waste event organised by Concern Ireland.

As children my mum instilled in us an ethos of never wasting food (or anything else for that matter), we were rightly or wrongly always encouraged to finish our dinner.  

To this day she finds it very difficult to stay away from our “waste shelf” in the packing shed. This shelf is where all the worthwhile graded out produce is made available to the packing team to take home.

Up until recently and for many, many years, my mum could be found in there sifting through all the waste produce and salvaging anything that was good enough, then filling her car boot and bringing it all over Galway to people who needed it.

Like my dad’s work ethic, my mum’s need to save the food must have been programmed in her genes!  Their generation was not one that could afford to waste food. Food took up a more sizeable percentage of their disposable income and so had a higher value. In our society today the idea that food is valuable has changed, and unfortunately not for the better. 

Food waste is a major global issue. If it was a country, it would be the third biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions!  Food produced on nearly one third of all agricultural land is thrown straight in the bin! 

Here in Ireland, we dump 50% of all the salads we buy and an amazing 25% of all fresh fruit and veg! 

1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted every year! This is an unimaginable amount, here in Ireland the figure is nearly 1 million tonnes, which contributes 3.6 million tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere. 

These figures are staggering and bewildering but unfortunately not at all surprising. The cheap food culture engineered over the last five decades and evangelised by supermarkets has meant that we do not as consumers see value in fresh food. We expect it to be cheap. 

We expect it also to be shiny and picture perfect and uniform. Supermarkets actively discriminate against oddly shaped produce, or vegetables that are under or over spec. Our cabbage, the cabbage that you are getting in your boxes this week in a supermarket system would be graded out because they are too big!  

When I think of the land, and the planning and the work and the energy that is involved in bringing a crop to harvest it makes me feel angry and sad that somebody somewhere might consider that because of what a crop looks like it should be wasted. This is a system that has lost its way. 

Our food system is meandering dangerously close to it’s own undoing and as we stare into an uncertain future where climate change is playing a larger and larger part in our ability to grow food, eliminating food waste needs to be a priority. 

My mum’s relentless energy in making sure we as a business kept food waste to a minimum was one small part in a much bigger chain, but she played and continues to play an important part in at least keeping me on the straight and narrow and she never lets me forget that food is just too valuable to waste.

Needless to say, and as always (and I never get tired of saying it) your support for our business means that the issue of food waste will always be at the top of our agenda.

Thanks

Kenneth 

Seasonal Eating

A while back somebody asked me, jokingly (at least I hope it was a joke, looking back now maybe it wasn’t, in which case I led them astray by my answer) ‘What corner of the farm did we grow pineapples and bananas in?’ My answer: ‘The far corner!’

Eating seasonal, eating Irish, eating local, all admirable aspirations and absolutely possible-ish. ‘Ish’ because it can be tough, and it can require a great deal of thought and understanding and commitment if you want to stick to these ideals all year round and not end up eating turnip at every meal from Nov-March!

Eating seasonally is much easier at certain times of the years than others and this is the best time to start. This year is turning out to be one of the best years ever for harvest. However it is not all good news and while we have always been committed to sourcing local and organic where possible. Sometimes it is difficult to meet everybody’s expectations. 

I have just come off the phone with Richard Galvin our regular IRISH, seasonal apple grower and he has just told me the news that much of his crop was devastated with a late frost back in June and he will have few if any organic apples for us. 

There is nothing we can do about this, similarly in a few weeks the IRISH organic tomato season will finish, and we will then rely on imported organic tomatoes. While growing tomatoes out of season is possible it is energy intensive.

That being said, eating seasonal food can be remarkably rewarding.  The harvest on our farm is now moving towards the more earthy IRISH crops that thrive in our climate and tucked in there are some real seasonal stars. It is maybe the taste of the first freshly harvested carrot, or the start of the purple sprouting broccoli season that really make me appreciate the ebb and flow of the seasons and its effect on our local food supply. 

Following a strictly seasonal diet can be nearly impossible,but maybe using the old 80/20 rule might be a good idea here? Eating what is in season 80% of the time and eating what you want the other 20%.

But does taking a seasonal approach to food matter? Yes, it matters a lot, it matters for our planet and for our health. Seasonal organic food is usually fresher and therefore contains more nutrients, has been grown sustainably and has a smaller carbon footprint.

Even so, accepting that somethings just don’t grow in our country and some things only grow well in our country at certain times of the year is part of understanding our food landscape. We grow what we can here on our farm, but we still need to source bananas from the other side of the world.

Where we need to import, we will always make sure our produce is organic, Fairtrade where possible and never airfreighted.

One of our 5 pledges for the planet.

We have never had such a large range of local IRISH organic produce both from our own farm and from a host of other small organic farms across Ireland. Without any doubt right now is the perfect time to give seasonal eating a go. 

I am also looking for to the start of the proper Italian Clementine and Lemon season, and my favourite is the blood orange season later in the year. 

As always thanks for your support. 

Kenneth

Get a box of locally grown veg (with some more exotic fruit thrown in for variety) here.

The Rewards of Harvest

Lughnasa the Irish word for August represents the start of the harvest season and it is embedded in our culture and identity. It is a celebration of the harvest season, and both myself and Toby were having our own little festival in the field of clover here! 

By September we are celebrating the fruits of many months of labour in the fields it is the true month of harvest.

Growing and harvesting your own food can be so rewarding. Watching the small seedlings transform into robust healthy plants that provide food is truly one of the many miracles of nature. 

Sometimes, it seems that the food is an added bonus, and that the pleasure and the reward of working in the soil is enough. It feeds the soul.  Research has shown that putting your hands in soil can help ease depression and being outside cheers people up.

Rekindling that connection with our food and the land is something that is central to our identity.  

Our grand-parents knew what good food tasted like, they knew where their food came from and they knew how it was produced.

We have handed the control of our food to a handful of global corporations that run an efficient feeding machine, which has disconnected us from primary food production. Supermarkets have added a layer of separation that takes us another step further away from our food. In recent years they have seen the value in putting the smiling farmer on their walls in a weak attempt to give the impression that they are reconnecting us to our food.

We have relinquished not only this connection but the skills and ability to produce our own food.

We have become accustomed to the always available food culture, everything we ever need is always there on the supermarket shelves, plastic clad ready to be added to our shopping basket.

We have paid a high price for this choice and convenience.  

If you are honest, what do you know about the food you are eating today for dinner? Where was it produced? How was it produced? How were the people treated that grew it? Difficult questions and mostly ones that don’t cross our minds.

However, the answers to these questions will not only open our eyes, they are the key to a shift in what we eat and how we approach our food. They can also lead to a healthier you and crucially a healthier planet.

We are right in the middle of harvest season now and it is wonderful. If you ever wondered if you could manage to eat with the seasons, then now is your best shot. 

And if you don’t know why you might start eating seasonally here are the whys: 

  1. Reduce your carbon footprint massively.
  2. Get more nutritious food. Freshly harvested food has a higher nutrient content.
  3. Get an amazing taste experience “how food used to taste”
  4. Support real local jobs.
  5. Support the skills needed to grow our own food. 
  6. If it is organic you are supporting a system of food production that enhances biodiversity rather than degrades it.

So as with the traditional feast of Lughnasa why not get some good local food in, and celebrate the beautiful bounty of your gardens and our fields by a simple meal with family and friends. 

Kenneth

Get a beautiful box of organic veg delivered to your door here.

Don’t Look the Other Way

How often do we look the other way? How often do businesses and governments look the other way? Which is worse? Not knowing, or knowing and doing nothing?  As they say ignorance is bliss.

But what about re-framing that idea? What if we know something is good for our health our soul and the planet and we choose that path? What if that means we do the right thing because of the knowledge we have, then we are travelling down a very bright road indeed.

Ella went foraging for blackberries yesterday evening. She felt great for being outside in nature, she felt great for the satisfaction and the pure pleasure of finding and harvesting them and her health will certainly thank her for eating them. She did the right thing, she may not have thought about it much, but she felt it.

On our organic farm we have left the brambles, they provide wonderful homes for all sorts of life and their blossom is an early source of food for the bees, the best advice given to many conventional farmers is to spray burn and clear them! Why I say?!

We as farmers can do the right thing too, mostly we have the knowledge (although the food system and many professional advisers lead farmers down a factory farming and chemical laden approach to food which is unnecessary and inhumane) so hiding in ignorance will not wash.

At the other end of the scale, we have the conscious deception by multinational agribusinesses and large food corporations with billions at stake. They certainly have the knowledge and the resources to do the right thing, and yet they actively engage in measures to create a food system that involves not only looking the other way but one that damages our planet and our health while intentionally misleading consumers about their food choices.

Martin Luther King’s famous quote was most probably not targeting these corporations, but it is fitting in this context.

Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the week-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.

Martin Luther King Jr.

There is so much we can do to reengage with a positive food culture. Building a positive healthy eating routine is the first step.  Taking a closer look at what we eat and where we source our food can transform our diet and collectively help transform our world.

There is little doubt that eating more organic vegetables and fruits sourced locally is the very best thing we can do for our planet and our health.

So, step out into nature, and if you do get the chance, blackberry season is upon us, it is short, so grab a bowl or two and get picking. They freeze amazingly well and are a fantastic addition to smoothies.

Kenneth

Explore our range of sustainably grown and sourced fruit, vegetables and groceries here. We deliver to every address in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Simple, Real Food

Yesterday my daughter Ella went down the fields and harvested a big bunch of kale she wanted to make kale crisps. I was impressed, who am I to stand in the way of a child who wants to voluntarily eat kale, I thought to myself!

Mostly though it is the other way around, often getting our kids to eat more vegetables can be a struggle, why is this? Why isn’t eating an apple, (or indeed kale crisps) instead of a chocolate bar easier? Why is doing the right thing sometimes so difficult? 

Why is our food system not better, healthier, kinder to us and our planet. How did we get ourselves into this crazy retail race to the bottom and how come it is so hard to value and want to eat real food? 

Both questions are linked. I did a stent in a major pharmaceutical company in the US as a research scientist. A friend of mine at the time worked in the food division, occasionally she would bring cookies to lunch for us to try that had been engineered in her lab to within an inch of their lives. Texture, flavour, taste, and crumbliness had all been optimised in the lab to allow just the right amount of sugar fat and salt to hit our taste buds in the right way at the right time to make them irresistible.  

Many of the processed foods including health bars and vitamin drinks that line supermarket shelves are about as healthy as eating spoonful’s of sugar, generally they contain high amounts of processed apple juice or conventional cereal and sugar substitutes. They rely on wonderfully creative science and marketing to make us believe how good for us they are, and of course they taste amazing.

We are sold the idea of free choice, but the reality is that nearly all of the big brands on our shelves are made by 10 giant multinational conglomerates. An industry built on cheap commodity products wrapped and packaged and sold as healthy, driven by profit, derived from a complex unsustainable food chain produces most of our food and it is damaging our health and destroying the planet.

So how is this system fair? How is it that these processed products have taken centre stage and are often seen by us the consumer as a prized food that can be sold for maximum profit? This is the carefully constructed reality we have been fed, it is not our fault it is just the way it.

It is simple, cheap commodity ingredients are processed and packaged to be sold as healthy alternatives to real food, that achieve maximum profit for manufactures and retailers. 

Deciphering what is good for our health and the planet is next to impossible these days. But it doesn’t have to be so complicated. 

There is one extremely straightforward step any one of us can take right now to revolutionise our food choices, the principle is simple: 

“EAT MORE FRESH ORGANIC PRODUCE”

We cannot eat too many vegetables and vegetables in all their guises are good for us. That’s pretty simple right?

So, choosing fresh organic locally grown food and working more fruit and veg into our daily routine is a magnificent way to improve how we feel and our long-term health, not to mention the benefits for the planet. 

So, Ella, go for it, all the kale in the world is yours!

Kenneth

Get a box of real, simple organic food delivered to your door anywhere in Ireland or Northern Ireland here.

Weed Control & Roundup

Over the last couple of months, I had forgotten how grounding growing food is. On a sunny day or sometimes even better on a wet and windy day walking through the crops, or sampling the fresh harvest, leaves you feelingconnected to the land and alive.  It is easy to forget all of this.  
 
These days it’s very difficult to know how the food we eat is actually produced. How could we be expected to know?  Life is so busy, and supermarkets give us a shiny happy reality that is often disconnected from the real food production processeshidden behind the scenes. 

The end of the growing season is a mad rush it always is and just when you think you are finished you discover you are not. We have finished planting, but the weeds have marched on relentlessly. This warm humid weather is ideal for cropgrowth but also for weed growth. 

This year our work apart from one or two mishaps has kept pace with the weeds. But our approach to weed control is notone of total dominance, quite frequently once you get the crops to a certain size the weeds are no longer a problem. 

In fact, they can provide a basis for a wide variety of life: flowering weeds that bees come to, the lush green undergrowth, a haven for a myriad of tiny creatures that would not be there otherwise. 

Thus, in turn providing food for the birds, and at times, the necessary predators such as ladybirds and hoverflies that feed on aphids. A natural ecosystem living below the giant shading leaves of the broccoli plants or cabbages develop. Each plant brings something different to the fray and generally none are unwelcome.

Now please do not misunderstand me, if we did not take a pragmatic approach to weed control and utilise all the tools at our disposal there would be no crops, no food, and no farm. We have worked extremely hard to ensure the crops are healthy and weed control is part of the process. No, our approach is just different, less harsh and embraces the idea that yes, we can work with these other plants, and they too have a place on our farm. 

Conversely conventional farming relies on the iron fist of chemicals to control weeds, there is no room for negotiation here, the chemicals are designed to disrupt metabolic pathways in plants, they are generally systemic in nature (get absorbed into the plant and reside there after application, all the way up the food chain onto our plates), the weeds are removed, and the residues of the chemicals remain in and on the food. Just look at the side of any road sprayed with roundup, it is ugly and yellow and dead. 
 
Using chemicals to fight nature will never work. In the short term it may give a temporary reprieve from a certain disease or pest, but that pest will come back stronger and more resistant next time. It is in a way a self-perpetuating industry.It is not the way and IT IS CERTAINLY NOT OUR WAY.

Organic agriculture is much more than saying no to the use of chemicals, it represents a holistic approach to working with nature, to our land and to our food. It means no chemicals, but it also means no artificial fertiliser, it means tree planting, it means hedge planting, it means allowing nature its place to thrive while also producing food. It means taking care of the soil and it means producing food that tastes fresh and good and crucially is good for us and for the environment.

Here’s to fresh organic food!

Kenneth

PS: It is a strange time, normality is creeping back into our lives, kids are going back to school as are ours, routines if there are ones will be re-established. It has been a strange year, some things are certainly outside of our control, but we can control what we eat. Keeping good healthy fresh food in our fridge, means we are more likely to use it, and this means we will eat healthier and feel better, as we head into autumnaldays this is one sure positive step we can take.

Bounty of the Land

For the bounty of the land, we need to be thankful. My mam used to insist on us all saying a thank you for the food before we ate any meals, especially the special meals at Christmas and Easter. She had the right idea; to stop and think and appreciate our food is something that we rarely do in these busy times but taking stock can be a very good thing to do. 

Our food decisions have such massive implications for our health and our planet, there probably isn’t anything more fundamental we can do that is within our control than make good food choices. I guess you could argue that “good food choices” are subjective. I would argue that maybe they arenot, we all know the difference between eating processed junkfood and a healthy apple, that is not subjective, but it goes so much further.

The questions around food choices are many. Do we reduce our meat intake, or do we choose not to eat meat at all? Will we choose local or imported? Organic or conventional?Fairtrade or not? I guess at this stage we know a thing or two about food, we have been growing it for 15 years commercially, and this is my grandad’s farm and he also used to grow his vegetables organically.

We choose, plants, organic, sustainable, Fairtrade and local (where possible), we choose life (To paraphrase a very famous film!) 

My take is simple, and it is the cornerstone of our farm and business: do what is right, don’t use chemicals, work with nature, plant trees, keep bees, grow only vegetables, use natural fertiliser and green manures, rest the land and grow and harvest healthy sustainable food.

It is ultimately a no brainer, fresh organic food, is more nutrient dense, is tastier and you only get what you see, no hidden chemicals. People often ask why some conventional vegetables keep for so long? Well, if you take citrus fruit for example, they are coated in a chemical wax to preserve them they can last for ages, you will not find any hidden unseen chemicals in or on our food. 

Right now, we are slap bang in the middle of the best local IRISH harvest season, it is the time of local vegetable plenty.This is the culmination of our year’s work, and we are rolling in produce so much so that we don’t have enough homes for all our broccoli and courgettes. But we have come up with some great ways to move it on and to say thank you too for supporting us, next week all set boxes will get a free extra portion of courgettes, so enjoy!

Right now, we are harvesting: Kale green, Cavelo nero,cabbage, broccoli, Romanesco, tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, lettuce, salad, carrots, fennel, beetroot, spinach, radish. We also have IRISH scallions, onions, new potatoes, mushrooms, garlic, leeks, yellow courgettes, it’s a long list. 

My absolute favourite thing to do right now is to go to our polytunnels and pick my own tomatoes for lunch, they taste amazing, they are grown right here in Galway, and you will not get better. They are in all the boxes next week, and a little trick to bring out the flavour is to eat them at room temperature not straight from the fridge.

So yes, we are thankful for the bounty, and we are also thankful for your support to make a real sustainable commercial organic vegetable growing enterprise a reality right here in Sunny Galway.

Kenneth

Have a look at our range here.